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Article – A Soave kind of wine

October 29th, 2010

Bulls Blood

Last year around this time I wrote a piece on a Hungarian wine known as Bulls Blood. It was supposed to be a tip of the hat towards Halloween with the Blood reference. At some point I must have thought that I would consider bringing the wine into Ireland. Well that’s not going to happen anytime soon I am afraid. The market is not quite ready I think. We have a few more bottles of Merlot and Pinot Grigio to sell. It’s a shame as it is a really good hearty wine.

The Irish Times agree

I was interested to note in the weekend edition of the Irish Times that John Wilson covered the same ground as I did recently when breaking down the price of a bottle of wine. The only slight difference was that he has the final margin a little higher than I had. Maybe I need to put up the prices. Thunderbolts and Lightening, I think I am selling my wine too cheap. When this gets out we will need to install the crowd control grids again. All joking aside, I encourage you to look up Saturdays Times online and read about the pricing of wine in this country and how the government are talking such a huge cut. When the budget comes out, we may need to revisit it, so get your wine before Mr. Lenihan sucks the soul from the country.

I now banish this mention of the evil day to the toilet of inevitability. Instead, I will return to some of the characters I met on my recent trip to Italy. I deliberately took a little break from introducing them, as I was conscious of diluting what was a really educational and delicious trip to Italy. In some ways I am saving the best for last, as the remaining two winemaking families are iconic and have been for many years. Their very names evoke the heart of Italian white wine excellence.

The Hills of Soave

The Hills of Soave

Soave People

The Italian region of Soave got a bad name for a number of years as a change in Italian law expanded the region from its historical base in the hills around the medieval village of Soave. An historical and small area around a little village expanded into a huge area of commercial high yielding vines. So, now much like Burgundy, it is very important to know and trust the producer.

The KIngs of Soave

The KIngs of Soave

The very first bottle of wine to call itself Soave came from the Pieropan estate in the early 1930s. Founded by Leonildo Pieropan in 1890 and subsequently run by his two sons, Fausto and Gustavo, it was the youthful enthusiasm of his grandson Leonildo, known as Nino, that revolutionised it. Nino and Teresita run the company now and have been joined by their sons, Dario and Andrea.

Screwcaps and Classicos

Despite this link to tradition, they are pioneering screwcaps on classified Italian wines. They are determined that screwcap is the way forward and their Soave Classico wines reflect this. However, they were forced to reluctantly abandon the Classico denomination to achieve this. When you buy a bottle of Pieropan Soave you are actually getting a bottle of Soave Classico. Forget under cost rubbish wines, that is real value.

Jane Boyce MW listens beside the old bamboo drying Table

Jane Boyce MW listens beside the old bamboo drying Table

The mighty Oz is a fan

Oz Clarke ( who was in the first Superman film ) agrees and says “when the right grapes were grown in the right vineyards and turned into wine with skill and care, Soave was, and is, one of Italy’s loveliest white wines. This has a comehither scent of ripe apple and soft leather with just a whiff of tobacco and white peach. The flavour is subtle yet delightful: a tiny nip of grape skin tannin is easily disarmed by scented lemons and stones, a whisper of violet, a dash of creamy softness – succulence in pastel shades.” Flowery words indeed from Mr. Clarke, but good Soave is known as the Chablis of Italy and anyone who has tasted great Chablis will absolutely love this.

Darius Pieropan gives us the tour

Darius Pieropan gives us the tour

That restaraunt in Verona

A few people have asked me about the restaurant in Verona that I mentioned in a previous article. It is called Trattoria al Pompiere and has a website at www.alpompiere.com. If you are planning a trip to Verona, I would very much recommend this little piece of heaven. I can still taste the Amarone Risotto. It is a few steps from the Romeo and Juliet balcony, so if you need romantic inspiration, may I suggest a meal here followed by a squeeze under the balcony. If he or she is not butter in your arms at this point, you still have the ancient open air opera, which is about three minutes walk away. “Buona Fortuna”.

A good table in Verona

A good table in Verona

Food Extravaganza

There has been a huge uptake in tickets for the Food Extravaganza in the Clonmel Park on November 10th. Held in conjunction with Bord Bia, this promises to be a great evening. Jane Boyce MW will be on stage and matching wines to the food that Pat Whelan among others will be preparing. A lot of companies are using this as a team building night out and for 15 Euros it is great value. We want to show you what is on your doorstep and I think you will be amazed. Jamie Oliver and Richard Corrigan make TV shows about people like those in the Tipperary Food Producers. I urge you to come along and see what the term Taste the Difference really means.

A Very Tasty Wine Dinner

Red Nose Wine are starting to put final dates on our own more intimate wine evenings and we will be having an Irish winemaker in France over on November 24th. Ciaran Rooney of Domaine des Anges will host a wine dinner in Befanis restaraunt in Clonmel. They menu looks superb and I have never had a bad meal there. €45 for food and wine and a peek into the world of winemaking in Provence.

I am then planning on having an open house portfolio tasting on December 9th which will involve lots of wine open and little or no talking. I will pick the cream of the wines and open them up for a tapestry of wine. Be sure to get on the mailing list to get the information when it is hot off the press. Tickets will be limited. The competition for the Icon Wines from the Languedoc closes today, so if you are not Liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter – do it today. Winners will be announced on Facebook & Twitter.  

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

Please have a look at our Facebook site and ‘Like’ Us so we can share all the photos with you. Feel free to share this page with your friends and enemies.

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Domaine des Anges Wine Dinner Nov 24th

October 27th, 2010

Christmas is coming and the goose will be a miserable looking effort after Brian Lenihan gets us in his radar for the Budget. So before all of that, Red Nose Wine makes a galant effort to bring a little continental flavour into your lives.

As you all know, the Irish travel well, and have made great success of themselves across the globe. We all have the relations who made good in America. To this day Irish names resonate across the wine world. Bordeaux in particular has Lynch, Kirwan, MacCarthy, Barton and Phelan stil commanding prices and respect across the world.

Another Irish Family done good

Another Irish Family done good

The latter day Wine Geese found themselves moving a little further south and one of the great modern Irish vineyards is based in a wonderful little part of Provence. It is called Domaine des Anges and Kilkennyman Gay McGuinness owns it and Dubliner Ciaran Rooney makes the wines, and they have been fantastically received all over the world. They have been very popular in Red Nose Wine since we started taking them in.

Ciaran Rooney

After that rather long winded introduction, what’s the point. I am delighted to announce that Red Nose Wine is having a wine dinner with winemaker Ciaran Rooney on Wednesday November 24th in Befanis Restaurant in Clonmel Co. Tipperary.

Menu

Menu

This promised to be a fantastic night where a menu of fresh in season food will be prepared to match the artisan and organic wines of Domaine des Anges.

Gary Gubbins climbes the hill above Domaine des Anges

Gary Gubbins climbes the hill above Domaine des Anges

For those of you not familiar with the vineyard, it is basically “over the hill” from Chateaneuf du Papes and its Reds reflect the style, especially in its entry level offering. I would suggest the Archange is more like a nothern Rhone in style and the high altitude definetly helps here, but its whites are where the real surprise occurs. Countless critics from Oz Clarke to Jancis Robinson and Tomas Clancy have raved about these wines. I haven’t even told you the best bit. They are fantastically priced and a real bargain from €12.50 up Retail.

Tickets can be purchased from Red Nose Wine or from Befanis, but places are limited and with all the food and wine included for only €45, this could sell out very quickly.

Article – The Social Media Harvest party

September 24th, 2010

Maggie May picks the grapes

“It’s late September and I really should be back in school”. So sang Rod Stewart in his little ditty about Maggie May. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could make a living out of playing pool? I must admit to being a little jealous of the people who are heading back to college now for another year of learning and a bit of fun on the side. Youth really is wasted on the young. Before I choke on another cliché I must confess to being in a panic. I am sitting in the shop on a Saturday and I am leaving for Italy early Monday morning. No recession here you are shouting, but I assure you that the recession is alive and well. However, it shall be put to one side for a few days, as I am delighted to say I am being brought away for a few days by one of the importers I work with. They are paying for everything, and all I have to do is be at the airport at 5.15 on Monday morning, which is a little obscene in my eyes. It’s not the early morning or the late of night. It is like a parallel universe where nobody is really awake. I can confidently predict I will be like a briar for the first few hours. Needless to say I will squeeze a few articles out this trip, and hopefully some nice pictures from the Venice/Verona area.

 

Talking it up

Before this I have a list of jobs to get through and the clock is ticking. One of those jobs is this article, so here we go. The harvest is currently in full swing across the vineyards of Europe and I am waiting on many a winemaker to get back to me on varying issues and orders. I don’t see them doing so until the hay is saved, so to speak. The harvest is the whole point of their year and as usual the whisperings of the potential crop is varying. Bordeaux are talking it up as normal, but they are alone as other parts of France are not so excited. The others don’t have a new and cash rich group of customers in China who are driving prices of the great Cru Classé wines even higher. The sad part is that many of these great wines are now out of the reach of most people and only a privileged few get to taste them. During the interviews for my MBA thesis, I had the great pleasure to meet and taste with the winemakers in Châteaux Palmer, Leoville Las Cases and possibly the most famous of them all, Chateau Margaux. These wines are phenomenal but I can’t even write down the prices for the good vintages, such is my fear of being ridiculed. If you are curious, go to Liv-Ex.com, the online fine wine exchange to see the market prices for these classics and others. You have been warned – the prices are crazy.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Chateau Margaux

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Chateau Margaux

The vineyards communicate

I’ve written about the harvest in a previous article so I won’t repeat myself, but will talk about it from a different point of view. The social media world ( Facebook, Twitter)  that I have embraced so warmly lets us look into the fields and the Vignerons at work. Many of the vineyards that I work with are posting photos and updates from the ongoing harvest. Chateau Paradis in Provence have decided to delay the harvest until September 19th, their latest ever start. Basile Guibert from Mas de Daumas Gassac has posted lots of photos from the vines and regular updates on progress. These are just a handful of the vineyards posting their progress back as it happens. I only hope that they continue this into the final evening’s harvest party where many a row of vines has known to be visited by a courting couple at 2 in the morning. They feel no rocks beneath them and do not realise that the bare vines hold no cover from the prying eyes of the other workers. Ah, the stories that they tell me on my visits. By all accounts, many a long distance relationship was forged over the backbreaking work that is a harvest. Other people give false addresses and disappear from the romantic setting of a harvest, never to be seen again. A winemaker will give you all the gossip if you order enough wine.

romantic vineyards

It tends to be migrant workers who return each year from different parts of the world and the same people in general return every year to the same vineyard. If any of you would like to partake in a harvest, please let me know and I can try and arrange a job in the sticky hot vines for next year. The pay is terrible, the work backbreaking but the harvest party is supposed to be great. The harvest will be in full flow for my trip to Italy, but I might be too early for the party. I am willing to offer useless advice from the comfort of the tasting room, but I have no intention of using my back. It’s already in a bad way from lifting cases of wine. So, with this in mind, I have a few more jobs to get through before I can head off to Dublin and a flight to Venice. I hope to report back with lots of stories next week. Ciao for now.

The Tipperary Food Producers are organizing a Food Extravaganza on November 10th in the Clonmel Park Hotel. We hope to get one of our winemakers over to talk about wine and food, so keep that date in your head. It could be a great night out with lots of food and wine and interesting conversation.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Article – A Room with a View

August 3rd, 2010

The tour continues ( and not a bicycle in sight )

I promise I will not mention France for a number of weeks when this series of articles conclude. It is very difficult to be in the middle of this wine tour and not write about who I meet and the land they work. This is the reason I got into this line of work and what I hope distinguishes me from the commodity wine sellers. I travel to source the wines and sit around the kitchen table with the winemakers. They usually have to wipe their hand in their pants before shaking mine and I appreciate their connection with the land. It’s all about reducing the links in the chain from the land to the ultimate consumer, you. The next time you are picking your wine in the supermarket, ask the assistant about the winemaker’s thoughts on the vintage for the wine you are buying. Irish Americans often talk of searching for a sense of place. I think wine is also searching to express the place it comes from. I am surrounded by completely different wines, people and terroirs where I write this article. This is why I like French wine so much and why up until 15 years ago it was the first choice of much of Europe and the US.

My palate feels itchy – it must be La Clape ( boom boom )

Even though I am technically in one region as I write this (Languedoc), the wines are changing so dramatically over the course of a mile. I was a vineyard yesterday near Narbonne, in a region known as La Clape. An unfortunate name, but very good wine. The vineyard stretched from the gorse hills that sit above the main house, down to the Mediterranean Sea and the style of wine changed dramatically, even with the same grapes. The hills saw very concentrated intense wines that required oak aging and needed food. The vines by the sea were exposed to the wind more and were much softer and fruit driven. 500 yards in distance but a million miles in style.

View through the vines to the Mediterranean Sea

 

 

 

View through the vines to the Mediterranean Sea

A Tipperary – Kilkenny Clash before September

This week I want to tell you about 2 vineyards in particular. One is a wine I already bring in and is owned by an Irish man (from Kilkenny – unfortunate when discussing hurling) and is called Domaine des Anges. In fact you can enjoy it in Befanis restaurant in Clonmel as well as Red Nose Wine. It lies in the shadow of Mount Ventoux, which means the mountain of wind. The vineyard is less than 30 minutes away from another wine village called Chateauneuf du Pape. You may or may not have heard of it, but its wines are well regarded but can be pricey. Domaine des Anges is not pricey at all. Mr. McGuiness offered me a room for the night and while I would have slept anywhere, I got a gorgeous room in his very classic old style Mas. The view was amazing and the shutters halted the morning sun but the breeze was allowed to sneak through into the room. After the heat wave of the Riviera, I was delighted to ignore air conditioning and sleep a peaceful nights rest. Of course this could not be achieved without a long discussion over various bottles of wine with the patron. I would like to tell you I retired to the bed before midnight but I would be lying. There were important matters to discuss, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they were. For the sake of closure, I think it involved Mr. McGuiness promising me the use of his gorgeous house to write my book. For those of you who have similar merry aspirations, there is a fantastic house for rent on the estate, complete with swimming pool and the nearby wine cellar is a plus. We can discuss the rent over a bottle of Domaine des Anges, Red, White or Rose. I should mention that his family were staying there with him and all made me feel very welcome indeed.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Domaine des Anges in the background

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Domaine des Anges in the background

The following day I did indeed visit Chateauneuf du Pape, but the day after that I went in search of the next big superstar wine. The morning was spent with a genuine superstar wine, Mas de Daumas Gassac. Those of you who met Samuel Guibert in April will be glad to know his public invite to visit the famous estate still stands.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in France

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Samuel Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in France

After my meeting with Samuel I went to meet two winemakers that are being talked about in the same breath as some of the big money Bordeaux wines were 50 years ago. Every major critic the world over is going crazy over a little wine called La Péira. Most of you will not have heard of it as it is mainly talked about within the trade. Suffice to say it is very sought after. I met the winemaker Jérémie Depierre and followed him down a very remote road to an unmarked building in the middle of nowhere. The wine has become so famous so quickly they have not even finished the building and are showing no sign of welcome anywhere. I have been ‘down this road’ before in Bordeaux and it was not worth the hype so I was not getting too excited. Then I tasted the wines. It was one of those wow moments. The entry level wine was spectacular and the middle wine even more so. The main wine itself was actually too complex and until it gets some age in the bottle is virtually undrinkable. In saying that, by the time it gets the necessary age, this wine will have multiplied in price by a huge amount. It is only made in tiny amounts and if I do end up bringing it in, it will be in minuscule amounts and it will be a case of get it while it’s cheap.

Jérémie Depierre of La Péira

Jérémie Depierre of La Péira

As I finish this article on a Saturday night by the sea, the room next to me is playing Otis Reading, “Sittin’ on a Dock of the Bay”. From my Bay, in the south of France, I bid you adieu and if anyone wants more information on any of the wines I mentioned, please call in, and I’ll wax lyrical to the point of boredom. Next is Carcassonne, then Bergerac and then Bordeaux.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist July 29 2010

Article – Hollywood and Wine

July 24th, 2010

I am still sweating and writing this article about 5 minutes after coming back from two vineyard visits today in the searing heat. I hear there has been a drop of rain in Ireland but France continues to sizzle. There are only so many times you can change your underpants in one day. Too much information I hear you shout. Anyway, this article will describe a visit I had today with a legend in wine.

John cools off in the heat

John cools off in the heat

Emmanuel Gaujal is the foremost consultant in Provence wine and in particular white wine. He owns a company that consults with other winemakers but his most important client is the very famous Chateau Miraval. I have used the word famous with many vineyards so you might think, “here he goes again”. Why is Miraval famous? Is it because it goes back to pre Roman times or because Pink Floyd recorded their seminal album “The Wall” there? Is it because The Cranberries recorded in the same studio, as well as a lot of other famous artists? Maybe it’s because it was recently purchased by a very famous Hollywood couple who are among the most famous people on the planet, if you are into that type of thing. All of the above is true, but it is also famous for creating a white wine that many regard as the best in France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Chateau Miraval, Provence

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Chateau Miraval, Provence

In advance of the trip I had to send details of my car and the person travelling with me. A rigorous interview at the security gates and we were in, and took the 2km drive to the main house and around the back to the office where an early morning coffee and a discussion on the philosophy of the estate was had in the courtyard. Organic is the order of the day here and very traditional methods are used in parallel with Mr. Gaujal’s many years of expertise. He helped create estates including the original incarnation of Chateau Vignelaure, later made famous again by David O Brien. This part of Provence is not really known for white wine as the hot weather does not make a good bedfellow for the acidity often required in great white wine. However the commune of Correns near Brignols uses its altitude ( a few dodgy bends were manoeuvred to get there ) and microclimate to create a truly exceptional wine. We tasted their Rose ( called Pink Floyd ) before the 3 whites. While the “Lady Jane” is the wine that is technically the most complex, for me the middle wine, Terre Blanche really stole the show. It had supreme balance, acidity and a wonderful expression of fruit. It really impressed me, and also my guest, who usually prefers red wine. At a fraction of the cost of the serious Burgundy wines, I am seriously considering trying it out on the Irish market. I’ll keep you posted. If I get it in, it will be in small amounts, but I will open it for a week in the shop. I can’t promise we will get Brad or Angelina over for a tasting, but you never know.

The Miraval estate covers 2 appelations - Cotes de Provence ( left of road ) and Cotes Varois ( right )

The Miraval estate covers 2 appelations - Cotes de Provence ( left of road ) and Cotes Varois ( right )

After the visit to the Hollywood Hills, we met one of my earliest suppliers, Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui for a very long and leisurely lunch. This was followed by a visit to Margui itself and while I have been there a few times, my guest has not, and was suitably impressed. He renovated an old farmhouse from the 18th century and it is a sight to behold. If you are near Provence, and want to visit a vineyard, let me know. Philippe is a most gracious host and his estate will blow you away. Like most of France, Philippe is very excited by the 2009 vintage and i have the white chilling in the fridge as I write. The reds won’t be bottled until next year. I have long waxed lyrical about Philippe and his generosity to me when I started. The fact that his wines are still as popular is testament to his skill as a winemaker and a businessman. Until next time, from the sunny south of France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Philippe Guillanton of Chateau Margui

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Article – The water and the wine

July 8th, 2010

The gardeners of the country are rejoicing. The rain has arrived and their plants, vegetables and flowers are well in need of it. I was in college with the founder of GIY, Grow It Yourself, who promote the idea of self sufficiency in the back garden. He has been tweeting this morning about the rain and how welcome it is. Looking out the window into my backgarden, I can tell you that my wife’s spinach is out of control, so the rain did its job. Seeing as I was looking for inspiration on today’s subject, I thought Mick’s tweet was as good a place as any to start. Rain – how important is it to a wine’s quality?

Water is one of the four elements, with fire, earth and air the other three. There is of course a Bruce Willis film about an attractive supermodel from Eastern Europe being the fifth element. There was very little wine in that particular film, so we will dismiss it. By all means, if it comes on TV late at night, take a leaf out of George Hook’s book, and Sky Plus it. You can judge for yourself, but always remember, Sky care; as least that’s what George tells us. I am now well into the second paragraph and I haven’t really talked about wine. Water is a very important component to wine, but seeing that if you spill it on yourself, you will get wet, but this may be fairly obvious. But to assess the impact water has on the lifecycle of the grape and subsequent wine, you need to look at one important factor. Is it a dry vineyard or does it use irrigation. As a rule, the old world is dry and the new world tend to use irrigation, but there are countless wines that dismiss this theory. In fact, there seems to be a growing trend from premium winemakers in the new world towards terroir driven ‘dry’ vineyards. A lot of it stems from the practice of ampelography ( the “wha” is the cry from the back of the church?). As any proficient user of Google will tell you, it is the practice of matching the grape variety to its environment. If this is done correctly, you really shouldn’t need to irrigate the vines. Buyer beware when you see certain grape varieties grown in areas where they really don’t belong. What Mother Nature can’t provide, Uncle Chemistry supplements and Doctor Paracetamol is needed for Father Hangover. As is the wine world’s prerogative, there are of course exceptions and little pieces of land with very different characteristics to its neighbours have been found and miracle wines produced.

A dry vineyard means no irrigation, and a reliance on the weather falling at the right time. In many cases, the lack of regular water puts a stress on the vine, which many people believe is necessary for it to produce it’s best expression of fruit. Think of professional sport, and the shots produced in the heat of battle in golf majors, or the incredible scores found on All Ireland day in hurling. Look at cycling, and drugs or no drugs, the limits those people push their bodies to in the Tour de France is insane. After hours in the mountains, they must then sprint to defend attacks. I have no idea if Lance Armstrong is a nice guy or not, but having read his book and seeing him in his pomp on the Champs Elysee in Paris, he produces his best “fruit” while his body his under severe stress. Other people collapse at this point, and some vines can also collapse under the stress. The dry vineyard people also believe in this stress, so on older vines you will have roots that travel for miles underground in search of water and their fruit is a reflection of this journey as much as it is about the plot of land where the vines are planted. One of my best selling wines is Chateau Margui from Provence and Philippe Guillanton planted apricot trees near his white wine vines. These were young vines so very impressionable and almost immediately took on the flavours of the nearby fruit.

Irrigated vines would be very fruit driven as well, but the characteristics of the grape variety would be stronger here. The fruit tends to be more forward so Cabernet Sauvignon tends to taste of blackcurrant and other typical Cab Sab varieties. They can be jammy ( in hotter climates ) or quite vegetal in cooler climates. They get drip-fed water at appropriate times so never to be under pressure. This begs the question, for vines that are not irrigated, what are the optimal times to get a drop of rain. Ideally, a vineyard will get rain early in the cycle to encourage growth, but a rain towards the end of the cycle can bring on rot, which is not what you want. Excess rain in June can also prevent pollination of the vines flowers. A blast of sunshine in the last month before harvest has been known to save many a vintage. Too much rain at this point and you get big fat juicy grapes, but they are not concentrated. There is too much water and not enough fruit.

I have a personal preference for dry vineyard wines, but there is a strong case for a little bit of help at certain times, when there is a real need to save the harvest. Both Spain and France are reviewing their laws on this, so you may see changes going forward. Life is hard enough for these people, without losing everything to a hot spell at the wrong time. Shrivelled up dehydrated grapes can often result in very concentrated wines, and very often with high levels of alcohol. Climate change is forcing the issue to the table sooner than it might have. When the weather is perfect ( like 2009 was all over France ), the taste of place and character from a traditional wine is a great advert for nature. So, as I finish writing, I look forward to tonight’s home grown spinach and the good weather returning sooner rather than later.

Red Nose Wine are making room for the news wines we have found, and are having a massive sale starting this week. There will be very serious wines and not so serious wines to be had, at clearance prices. Prices start from €3.75.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist July 8 2010

Article – The Streets of London

June 3rd, 2010

There is an old Joni Mitchell song that goes, “Sittin’ in a park in Paris France, reading the news and it sure looks bad”. I always thought that it was a cafe she sat in, and not a park. I was sure about it until i finally bought the album. Its funny how you can be 100% sure of something and still be wrong. Maybe it’s a male thing. The news sure looks bad today as I sit in a cafe in Clonmel, Ireland. Our beloved hurling team had a very bad day in the office and I had to drive to Cork this morning ( the day after the match ) to collect wine in the warehouse. The lads in the bond are avid hurling fans and let me have it between the eyes. I would imagine Liam Sheedy will have something more to say this year. At least the weather has picked up and is trying to help us get over it.

London – in search of gold

I put back on my travelling hat these last few weeks. I decided at the very last minute to go to London for the annual wine fair. I got the flight cheap and the hotel even cheaper and said why not. There was so much to see and do over the 2 days I was there that I could probably write 4 articles. We’ll see how this one goes down. I was also at the Wine Australia event held in Croke Park. Will I be back there again this year? Enough hurling references, my French friends are lost. I was told that my articles have a little following in the south of France among a bunch of winemakers. It’s one of those things where they might be laughing with you or at you – I’m not sure. What to talk about in regard to the London Fair is difficult to decide. There really was a huge amount of things to see and taste, and the organisation of the event was top notch. It was very different from the French shows and there was a lot more grouping of regions. For example, Italy came together and sectioned off different regions, so if you were looking for a Pinot Grigio, you could sit down and chat with Veneto winemakers and specify exactly what you were looking for.

Must I drink Bordeaux in the morning

There were also a lot of high end chateau who came together from Bordeaux and I bumped into one of them I knew early on the 2nd day. This was great except for the fact that I now had to taste varying vintages of Bordeaux at 10 o clock in the morning, including barrel samples of the already famous 2009 vintage. It is seen as rude not to taste everyone’s wine so by 11 o clock, I had tasted approximately 40 rich, dry red wines. Normally you would save these wines until the end of the day as they tire out your palate. I had to take a 30 minute break and regain my composure. And people think this is an easy job. It beats engineering anyway.

Meeting the famous folk

A real treat in London was going to a tutored tasting on regional French wines with Tim Atkin of BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. He is one the rare “Master of Wine” recipients and an expert on cheap but good quality regional wines. Basically, he told us about the new rule changes that are coming for the traditional Vins de Pays wines and how they will be more regionally based – more on that to follow. What was particularly satisfying is that at the start of the tasting, he name checked Mas de Daumas Gassac as the pioneers of quality wine from the unheralded areas of France. Those of you who attended our tasting with Samuel Guibert a few months back will have heard him discuss the upcoming changes. The tasting with Tim was a real stamp of approval for what I have been trying to do in terms of finding these kinds of wines. I had a great chat with him afterwards and he is as friendly as you see on the telly. It is always nice when that happens.

Gary Gubbins and Tim Atkin

Gary Gubbins and Tim Atkin

I will return to specific parts of the London show in the future, but now for a Monty Python moment, i.e. something completely different. I am not sure if any of you take the time to read my blog but lately it has really taken off. It is basically an unsanitized version of the article. I recently posted a blog about the whole concept of Bring your own wine to a dinner party or to a BBQ. I raised the point that maybe it is OK to bring a bottle for the house but to have your own bottle to enjoy as well. Why should you have to endure the rubbish wine that happens to be open on the table? Would you force a Guinness drinker to drink Heineken, or give them some cheap and nasty discount beer? The blog caused quite a stir in the blogosphere and please feel free to view or add comments at (www.rednosewine.com/blog)

A quick word of good luck to Kieran Quigley, who has recently taken over the Wine Buff in Clonmel, who have long been another champion of quality independent wines. I look forward to heated debate about both wine and his generous golf handicap.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine with Tim Atkin MW

BYOB – Etiquette Debate

May 22nd, 2010

A BlogPost that asks the hard questions about BYOB wine etiquette.
When you go to a house party, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine; in fact it may even be requested on the invitation. As a wine merchant, I think that is a great idea. However, this can lead to a delicate issue rearing its unsocial head. What I refer to is the social acceptance ( or not ), of bringing a bottle for the house and a bottle for yourself. I like wine, and have developed a taste for a certain quality of wine over the years. I know there are certain wines that I can drink without food that will have no ill effects the next morning. So, when I go to a party I bring one of each, a bottle to be placed on the table for the masses to attack, but also, a bottle for myself.

BYOB

This is the bottle which I and I alone get to drink. In the same way someone else might bring a six pack of Corona, because that is their tipple of choice, I like to bring a nice Provence or Rhone Valley Red. However, this seems to mortify my wife who says I should drink whatever is open instead of opening my own one and getting stuck in.

Why should I pretend to drink a wine that will, for the most part, be undrinkable? To the eternal despair of the independent wine merchant, the modern household tends to buy all its weekly needs in foreign owned supermarkets and proceed to drop the wine into the trolley along with the ham, cheese and tomatoes. There is usually an offer to get you shopping and as the independent wine merchants source the world for true value, it is the discounted rubbish that finds its way into many a household. I wouldn’t mind if they bought something bloody decent from the supermarket. At least people are too embarrassed to ask me my opinion on their great wine find. As Doc Holliday said to Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, “My hypocrisy goes only so far”. Indeed Sir.

A number of very near misses with the old fashioned wing style corkscrews ( which are useless ) has led me to recently start bringing my own corkscrew. I haven’t yet reverted to bringing my own glass, but have not ruled it out either. So, I ask you, am I being unreasonable and do I need to take yet another long hard look at myself? All comments and opinions welcome.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Past Articles – The weary wine merchants travels

May 3rd, 2010

Long before there was my blog, there were my articles in the paper. Seeing it is a bank holiday and I am feeling lazy, I will copy one of last summers articles ( or 2 ). I am also planning this summer’s big journey so nostalgia is setting in. However, it may be my age, but nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Anyway, these articles were posted from the road last June.

Greetings from the vineyards of Provence in the south of France. The sun is beating down on my white Irish brow, and the insects must know I am on a wine tasting trip. They sense either the alcohol or sweet fruits of the vine that are flowing through my sunburned veins. They have devoured me these last few days and one of my legs looks like an overworked bodybuilder, on a bad day. If only I could explain to them that I have been spitting all the wine on this trip.

I have a little gap in my itinerary and have time to grab lunch in Le Bistro de Lourmarin, which funnily enough is in a small village called Lourmarin. This is the village where Peter Mayle re-settled after having to sell his original Luberon house when his book, “A Year In Provence” became a worldwide hit. It made the Luberon very crowded and Mr. Mayle a tourist attraction. I was hoping to spot him having a quiet coffee, but it is not to be. After lunch I make the hazardous and extremely scenic mountain drive between Lourmarin and Bonnieux, which leads on to Roussillon, where Domaine de Tara can be found. Incidentally, Roussillon is where Samuel Beckett spent most of World War 2, having being exiled from Paris. He later complained that he found it too hot, and today I can understand why.

The very scenic village of Roussillon in the Luberon, Provence

The very scenic village of Roussillon in the Luberon, Provence

Those of you familiar with Red Nose Wine, may be aware of Tara and Michele Follea’s award winning wines, which we have imported since our first day in business. I am here to taste the latest vintage and fight over price. Poor Mr. Lenihan and his excise duty get yet another battering. The wines are Cotes de Ventoux and the reds are primarily made up of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A cheaper version of Chateauneuf du Pape for all the world, and not as heavy, so you can drink them in the summer. The whites are delicate Rousanne based wines and offer a great alternative to those sick of Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The meeting/tasting goes well and I try once more to find out whether the domaine is named after Scarlett O Hara’s homestead or the big hill beside the motorway. It depends who is asking is the well worn line. Whatever the truth, it is amazing how Ireland permeates the wine culture of France.

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Domaine de Tara

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine at Domaine de Tara

Tomorrow I am off to visit the great vineyard of the Languedoc, Mas de Daumas Gassac. Aimé Guibert’s wife Véronique is one of the preeminent scholars on Irish ethnology, and the family have a house in Bantry Bay. Their son, who now runs the business, went to school in Rockwell College. It is a small world. This is a family who redefined Languedoc wines on their own. The wine is referred to as the “Lafite of the Langeudoc” or the only Grand Cru wine from the region. They are no fools though, and have a range of wines from €8.99 all the way up the Grand Cru wine. They are also a joy to work with, as they show true understanding of the demands and realities of the Irish wine buying public. And in true French style (when you get to know them that is), they have also promised to give me a nice lunch among the vines tomorrow. Bon appétit.

With that in mind, I bid you farewell from Provence and the searing sun and hungry insects. All going well, I will return next week with news on many new and exciting wines I have found.

Part 2 of the Article – published the following week

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine visiting Mas de Daumas Gassac

Continued greetings from the vineyards of Provence, Languedoc, Chateauneuf du Pape and Bandol in the south of France. The sun has been joined by an unseasonal mini Mistral wind that swirls above us, and hammers the fishing boats in the harbor against each other. Yet, with nature roaring, the insects prove more resilient than the boats and continue to feed on my weary legs. At least the driving has stopped, and with it the torturous spiting of all the great wines that I have been tasting. Samples fill the corners of the house I am renting, and my 2 year old daughter is beginning to call it Daddy’s shop. Even sadder, I will have to dump the majority of them before I leave.

After I left you last week, I spent a fantastic day with Samuel Guibert in Mas Daumas Gassac. The “Lafite of the Languedoc” certainly lives up to its name and it is truly a magical valley. After a very pleasant lunch in a nearby village, we drove through the valley on Samuels jeep (no car would survive 5 minutes). The vineyard is spread out over an amazing natural amphitheatre – flat, steep and everything in between – see the photo. Rather than raze the whole plot, they decided to keep the natural boundaries in place and what you get is small independent portions of vines scattered throughout the valley. When the family bought this land, it was farmed traditionally with the horse. No chemical fertilizers have ever been on this land (the horse did ALL the work), and this is an integral part of their philosophy. Bordering the valley is the famous forest that Sameul’s father, Aimé, so famously defended from the Californian wine giant, Robert Mondavi. For those of you who remember Falcon Crest, the Mondavi’s were supposedly the blueprint for the family in the TV series. However, this would be completely irrelevant if the Guibert’s were not making fantastic wine at all price points. Samuel has promised to come over to Red Nose Wine next year for a very special tasting / dinner. I can’t wait.

Louis XV of France was once asked the secret of his eternal youth and he replied, “the wines of Bandol”. Now Louis may have told the truth, as the Mourvèdre based wines are delicious, but he did not have to drive from Martigues to Bandol to taste them. Any map will tell you that it is motorway nearly all of the way, and it should take under an hour. Considering I have covered more than 1,500km this week, it is one of my shorter trips. What they don’t tell you is that a part of the motorway goes through central Marseille, and there is a tunnel section that makes Jack Lynch’s look like the gap under Laffensbridge near Killenaule. As I entered Marseille, the traffic got busier, and the lanes got narrower. However, when we entered the tunnel, already being bullied into doing the maximum 130km/hr, every car suddenly found another gear and I found myself in the middle of a scary computer game. I was getting flashed and beeped and people were jumping lanes in the dark. There are actually exits off of the tunnel and people suddenly realize they have missed theirs and just veer at huge speeds to make it. The rules of skiing apply it seems. It is the responsibility of the person behind not to hit the idiot in front. After surviving the tunnel, they then have the audacity to ask you to pay a toll of €2.70. Don’t pay the ferryman. You have no choice if you want off of the mad merry-go-round. I was dreaming of Laffensbridge by the time I finally got to Bandol and its picture postcard wine country. I am still not sure the general wine buying public will have the stomach for Bandol when it is young, or the patience to wait for it to age. I am undecided whether to import into Red Nose Wine. I did taste some great examples of the wine though. I may bring in a little of the Rosé and the Red and see what happens. Incidentally, I took the long way home via Aix en Provence.

I was trying to get under this city at speed

I was trying to get under this city at speed

The next article they let me publish will be from Ireland, and I will keep you updated on how the insect bites are adapting to the Irish weather. I know you care. More importantly, I will return to a more structured piece on wine. I just thought you might like the peak into the wine buying routes.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at www.rednosewine.com/blog or follow the ranting on Twitter – www.twitter.com/rednosewine

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Our fallen comrades

March 31st, 2010

Today was a terrible day in Red Nose Wine. I dropped the kids to the crèche and came back to try and do a little bit of work at home before facing the cold cold warehouse. Such was my rush to start tweeting and engage in all things virtual that i grabbed the laptop case and forgot that I had deposited a little present in the side pocket the night before. We are currently in the days of Wine and Roses, without the Roses. I am receiving samples from my recent travels on nearly a daily basis. While the warehouse has warmed up considerably, you still don’t want to take the vest off, so I tend to bring the reds home to taste. Also, you need to give the poor bottles a chance to recover from the journey. Anyway, the wine was in the bag, and bang, whoosh, wallop. With one swift movement, i created this :

broken bottle

Needless to say, the tweeting was reduced to a limited few expletives and the mop and broom took centre stage. But it got me to thinking, what else have i dropped. A couple of bottles of the wonderful Les Terrasses and Margui and Margaux. But the worst story i witnessed was in a restaurant in Paris a few years ago. A regular client was impressing a few friends and brought with him a bottle of 1961 Petrus. This is BYOB at its best. The poor waiter was so nervous opening this €2,000 – €4,000 bottle of wine that it slipped through his palms and bang. I was about 2 tables away but the look on his face and the wine’s owner said it all… I will have to drop a lot more bottles to catch up. I hope today was my last.

Has anyone else any good bottle dropping stories? I heard a few on twitter today but won’t repeat them without consent. So, Kevin, Mike, Frank, Paula and David, the floor is open to you and anybody else who nearly tasted that fruit of the vine only for the crash of the bottle to end it all on tears.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

——- update on BlogPost ——-

My comment above ” I hope today was my last” has proved to be a bit of a jinx. Only 2 days later, in a vain attempt to clean up the warehouse when closed for Good Friday, i did the following :

Another Broken Bottle

Another Broken Bottle

The only consolation was that it was Le Page de Vignelaure and not Chateau Vignelaure that i dropped. In future i shall keep my mouth ( or blog ) shut….